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[en-kuhm-ber] /ɛnˈkʌm bər/
verb (used with object)
to impede or hinder; hamper; retard:
Red tape encumbers all our attempts at action.
to block up or fill with what is obstructive or superfluous:
a mind encumbered with trivial and useless information.
to burden or weigh down:
She was encumbered with a suitcase and several packages.
to burden with obligations, debt, etc.
Also, incumber.
Origin of encumber
1300-50; Middle English encombren < Anglo-French, Middle French encombrer, equivalent to en- en-1 + -combrer, verbal derivative of combre dam, weir < early Medieval Latin combrus < Gaulish *comberos confluence, bringing together (compare Quimper, in Brittany < Breton Kemper); see com-, bear1
Related forms
encumberingly, adverb
unencumbered, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for encumbering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She assisted the strong hands to rip away her encumbering skirts.

  • All non-combatants and refugees should go to the rear and be discouraged from encumbering us.

    The Soul of John Brown Stephen Graham
  • He was as impatient to assail his task and beat off the encumbering weight.

    We Can't Have Everything Rupert Hughes
  • I have purposely abstained from encumbering my narrative with legal details.

    The Dead Alive Wilkie Collins
  • I stripped to my shirt, delighted to be freed of the encumbering garments.

    A Volunteer with Pike Robert Ames Bennet
  • The encumbering woods are cut down, the unhealthy marshes are drained.

    Knowledge is Power: Charles Knight
  • Were he but free from these encumbering robes; were he but a man like the poet or the Chevalier!

    The Grey Cloak

    Harold MacGrath
  • That, stripped of every encumbering circumstance, is the story of the Monroe Doctrine.

    A Straight Deal Owen Wister
  • It has debarred the other part of the community from being individual by putting them on the wrong road, and encumbering them.

British Dictionary definitions for encumbering


verb (transitive)
to hinder or impede; make difficult; hamper: encumbered with parcels after going shopping at Christmas, his stupidity encumbers his efforts to learn
to fill with superfluous or useless matter
to burden with debts, obligations, etc
Derived Forms
encumberingly, incumberingly, adverb
Word Origin
C14: from Old French encombrer, from en-1 + combre a barrier, from Late Latin combrus, of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for encumbering



early 14c., "burden, vex, inconvenience," from Old French encombrer "to block up, hinder, thwart," from Late Latin incombrare, from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + combrus "barricade, obstacle," probably from Latin cumulus "heap." Meaning "hinder, hamper" is attested in English from late 14c. Related: Encumbered; encumbering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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